Mischa Baka: Performance Art
Showing posts with label Performance Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Performance Art. Show all posts

Monday, November 9, 2020

REVIEW: Topography of Breath 2.0

November 09, 2020 0
REVIEW: Topography of Breath 2.0


From The Synopsis: 

Topography of Breath 2.0 is a virtual encounter with skin, flesh and breath, which takes from Toh’s ongoing exploration of the body in relation to productivity and exhaustion.


live stream performance, Performance Art, Wednesday 28th of October, 8pm, 2020 


Approximately 45 minutes


CO-PRODUCTION: ARTFACTORY SUPPORTED BY: National Arts Council, Singapore & OH! Open House 


REVIEW 


Topography of Breath by Pat Toh takes what would be short fun scenes in a science fiction-like film and draws them out into durational experiential nightmares of physical endurance. A figure suspended, twisting and turning in black space, gasps for air and vocalises strain and effort into the void. Repetitive exercise type movements create rhythm with a steady and hard breath. The body is dissected by shifting video panels.

 

Toh's stamina and physical application is impressive, rousing the same type of appreciation usually reserved for athletes. Her anxious rants reveal an internalised cultural dialogue of striving, competing and self-reliance. She is alone, isolated but also crowded by the expectations of family, culture and work. I wanted to reach out and offer some peace to her hurried mind.

 

As our world edges into catastrophic environmental and social meltdown, and science fiction becomes reality, it’s time to confront what that means as an experience and take the time to feel and acknowledge the physical strain. Toh has put her body on the line and takes us on that journey. The detachment of the human species from the planet, from the ecosystem and from others will be, and is, a great physical trauma.


A body being subjected to technological and social control submits to being scanned; a relentless sequence of inescapable assessment and evaluation ensues. The internalized voices now seem to subside with a dystopian body colonized by the state. The body is duplicated and multiplied, making an army of replicants. Toh loses her individuality. She is a part of a larger machine. 


A pixelized impression of city landscapes, public spaces and people in transit is presented, with Toh's body placed above. She kisses and sucks at her body, yearning for intimacy and connection. Her shiny sweat and warm flesh contrast against the sanitized pixilations. A calm and detached voice implies a male gaze, or the powers that be, watching on; interested, but unperturbed. 


Women’s spoken reflections on an individual’s utility in consumer society overlay a lingering gaze up Toh’s body. Once arriving at her face, Toh's expression appears resigned, still, perhaps a little peaceful. The work, her literal hard physical labour and psychological torment, and the piece itself has come to an end. The final feeling is one of exhaustion and sadness.

 

The sadness is reminiscent of seeing a beautiful, powerful animal in a cage at the zoo resigned to its fate. 


What is the purpose of this work? It reminds me that although systems of power may seem like intellectual concerns, the final place of contention, in all power dynamics, resides in the body. The body is ultimately where the individual must eventually contend with the broader implications of social, corporate, and labour policies.  What are the expectations, controls and limits placed on the body and what capacity do we have within to question, observe and combat those forces?


What Toh manages to achieve so beautifully is to elicit a palpable, physical empathy. As I watch and experience her journey with her, Toh shares what’s at stake when submitting to the hierarchy above and around. She lives the experience so that an audience may viscerally know and feel that same tender, human, alive part of our selves, wriggling within, questioning and fighting back.